Thursday, 19 February 2015

What does an honourable Tory look like?

I've always enjoyed the work of columnist and commentator Peter Oborne since first discovering his tirades against the oleaginous Tony Blair. So I was somewhat surprised to hear that he had resigned his position at the Telegraph, itself the flagship of media Toryism, where as its chief political commentator he had provided mild-mannered and sober reflections for many years.

Not so much a fulminating reactionary, Peter Oborne is an honourable conservative fellow and embodies the best of moralism. You know he means it when he's indignant with rage at political corruption, cronyism and opportunism, the three characteristics of our trilateral consensus, precisely because he's polite by nature. Compare this to Peter Hitchens, the chief fulminator, who does adhere to difficult principles and abhors the party system as it is. What's the difference? The little Hitch is a drama queen, who smells rot everywhere, whereas Oborne assumes the best of people (which isn't always an advantage).

Unlike the Daily Mail herd of scabrous journos, Oborne has kept his distance from the racist narratives around Muslims, their faith and terrorism. Instead of partaking in slanders against the Muslim community, Oborne embraces multiculturalism and tolerance, while at the same time, he condemns homophobia and other forms of bigotry. He's been willing to share platforms with Leftists on these very issues standing with the prickly George Galloway, whom he defended against a ghastly assault, as well as Charlie Brooker and Mehdi Hasan. He was one of the few commentators to argue that the London riots were a sign of a society increasingly polarised by a wealth gap. But this isn't the only instance.

On more than one occasion, Peter Oborne has eloquently raised the question of Palestinian statehood and the rights of its dispossessed people. He has not been afraid to criticise Israeli policy in the Occupied Territories, and he has done so at the leading conservative newspaper. He's even dared to slam the pro-Israel lobby and its dealings with British politicians, particularly the Conservatives. Oborne may assume the best, but he's not going to pretend he doesn't see wrongdoing by his side. This is a great public service on his part.

Not enough liberals, let alone conservatives, have the brains or the guts to take a stand on the issue of Palestine. So the decision to resign can only be seen as another instance of this integrity. It only reaffirms and consolidates his record.

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Trade versus democracy.

The debate on the European Union is largely framed in terms of immigration policy and outrage around vague legislation drawn up in Brussels and imposed on the rest of us. In actuality, the worst aspects of the EU project can't even be discussed - namely the free trade agreement to integrate European and American markets. It puts the welfare states of Europe directly in the firing line of corporate power. Here's an excerpt from my article at Souciant:

The most heavily-criticized part of TTIP is what is referred ISDS (Investor-State Dispute Settlement) which empowers companies to sue national governments when their profit-making is threatened by legislation. As its critics have argued, such a mechanism would specifically discourage regulatory practices, and guard against shifts towards progressive tax rates.  It would also further entrench the economic reforms of the last four decades, and raise international obstacles to any government looking to change course. The reason why it isn’t critically discussed in debates like that which took place between Clegg and Farage, is that TTIP is considered to be a fait accompli amongst Britain’s main political parties. Fiscal neoliberals, they all agree on the necessity of economic union with the United States. 
Tellingly, another side of this consensus is support for American-style health care privatization. The Health and Social Care act (2012) allows 70% of NHS contracts to be farmed out to private companies. TTIP will extend this, not just to British companies, which is bad enough, but to US companies seeking to enter the UK healthcare market. At the same time, the Cameron government has underfunded the NHS by increasing funding at 1%, while the costs of the health system rise at a much higher rate. Of course, the current coalition has spent £3 billion on a bureaucratic overhaul to ‘devolve’ power to the doctors.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

William F Buckley was a Nazi!

My fellow Vidalophiles will have seen the famous clip of the Gentleman-Bitch crossing swords with the reactionary William F Buckley, Jr. back in 1968. Here's the juicy bit, and here it is in context. It must've been clear to anyone who followed Buckley closely in those days that he was a racist. Here's an excerpt from his editorial in a 1957 issue of National Review entitled 'Why The South Must Win' which I found in an old CounterPunch article:

The central question that emerges is whether the White community in the South is entitled to take such measures as are necessary to prevail, politically and culturally, in areas in which it does not predominate numerically? The sobering answer is Yes–the White community is so entitled because, for the time being, it is the advanced race. The question, as far as the White community is concerned, is whether the claims of civilization supersede those of universal suffrage. The British believe they do, and acted accordingly, in Kenya, where the choice was dramatically one between civilization and barbarism, and elsewhere; the South, where the conflict is by no means dramatic, as in Kenya, nevertheless perceives important qualitative differences between its culture and the Negroes’, and intends to assert its own. National Review believes that the South’s premises are correctThe great majority of the Negroes of the South who do not vote do not care to vote, and would not know for what to vote if they could.Universal suffrage is not the beginning of wisdom or the beginning of freedom. The South confronts one grave moral challenge. It must not exploit the fact of Negro backwardness to preserve the Negro as a servile class. It is tempting and convenient to block the progress of a minority whose services, as menials, are economically useful. Let the South never permit itself to do this. So long as it is merely asserting the right to impose superior mores for whatever period it takes to effect a genuine cultural equality between the races, and so long as it does so by humane and charitable means, the South is in step with civilization, as is the Congress that permits it to function.

As he was about so many things, Gore Vidal was right about Bill Buckley.